The Ticker: In Surprise Move, TASE CEO Offers to Buy Shareholders' Stock

Stocks end moderately higher as financial services post big gains | Alcobra agrees to merger with Arcturus | Talks with CVC to take 40% stake in Super-Pharm in jeopardy

A large digital ticker shows financial information to pedestrians outside the entrance to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016.
Rina Castelnuovo, Bloomberg

Talks with CVC to take 40% stake in Super-Pharm in jeopardy 

Negotiations for the European private equity fund CVC Partners to buy a 40% stake in the drugstore chain Super-Pharm looked in jeopardy on Thursday amid a dispute with Leon Koffler over management control. CVC was prepared to buy 15% of the 238-store chain from Koffler and another 25% from two banks, leaving it as a minority partner with Koffler still controlling 60% at a 1.9 billion shekel ($540 million) valuation. But TheMarker has learned that the sides are at odds over how much say in management CVC would get and, more recently, over CVC’s seeking a larger stake. With 2015 turnover of 5.35 billion shekels, Super-Pharm is Israel’s biggest drugstore chain, but efforts to expand its Polish operations have run into obstacles due to a new law limiting the number of stores controlled by overseas companies. (Guy Erez)

TASE CEO offers to buy shareholders’ stock 

In a surprise move, Tel Aviv Stock Exchange CEO Itai Ben-Zeev told shareholders he might offer to buy their stock now that the bourse has become a limited liability company. Under the new TASE law shareholders, mainly Israeli and foreign banks, have five years to reduce their stakes to under 5%. “In light of this and in response to several approaches I have received, we are examining purchasing your holdings in line with a valuation conducted recently by independent experts of 400 million shekels [$113 million],” Ben-Zeev said in a recent email to shareholders, adding that the offer was subject to approvals and a feasibility study. Neither the TASE’s board nor regulators were consulted about the proposed offer. The bourse has no substantial cash on hand, so if the offer is approved it will have to borrow money or issue shares.(Shelly Appelberg)

Alcobra agrees to merger with Arcturus

A year after it was ordered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to halt clinical trials of its flagship drug that caused a 60% drop in its Nasdaq share price, Israel’s Alcobra announced Thursday it was merging with closely held Arcturus Therapeutics. “Following an extensive review of strategic alternatives, we concluded that the transaction with Arcturus is in the best interest of Alcobra’s shareholders,” Alcobra interim CEO David Baker said. The companies agreed to an all-stock transaction that values Alcobra at a $1.68 a share, a 51% premium on its market price before the deal was announced. The combined company, which will be called Arcturus and based in San Diego, will be owned 60% by Arcturus shareholders and headed by Arcturus CEO Joseph Payne. The merged company will trade on the Nasdaq and focus on developing novel RNA medicines.  Shares of Alcobra were down 8.1% at $1.02 early afternoon local time in New York. (Yoram Gabison)

Stocks end moderately higher as financial services post big gains 

Financial-service stocks led the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange to modest gains on Thursday even as energy shares tumbled. The blue chip TA-35 index squeezed out an 0.15% gain to close at 1,421.04 points, while the TA-125 edged 0.09% up to 1,292.44, on turnover of 1.89 billion shekels ($540 million). The Oil and Gas index finished 1.4% lower at 976.13 points in response to a Supreme Court decision clearing the way for a multibillion-shekel class action against the gas cartel (see story on page 15). Volume leader Frutarom slid 2.2% to 271.90, marking its sixth straight session lower.  But banking and insurance shares were up sharply, with insurer Harel advancing 6.45% to close at 22.10 shekels, Bank Leumi up 1.7% to 18.75 and First international Bank up 1.45% to 65.99. Ormat Technologies climbed 3.85% to 125.60 after Oppenheimer raised the target price for its New York-traded shares to $70 from $65. (Shelly Appelberg)